Rebuilding lives: Meth use in area still a problem, but local entities looking to make a difference |

Rebuilding lives: Meth use in area still a problem, but local entities looking to make a difference

Brian Smith
The local organization Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse is dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine, shown here. COMA is hosting a special, two-hour meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Moffat County Public Safety Center to focus on the organization's mission and encourage residents to become involved in the organization. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, call 824-COMA.

When David Peterson was 25, methamphetamine came knocking at his door.

Peterson was living in Lake Havasu, Ariz., when several drug dealers came to his house looking for his neighbor. They asked Peterson if he would like to try meth and left him with a bag of the drug.

"The next thing I know, I started my crystal meth career," said Peterson, a 43-year-old Craig resident.

Peterson, who grew up in Washington, is no stranger to drug use, however. As the youngest of four, he started drinking on a regular basis at 10, sold drugs when he was in high school, and landed in rehab for cocaine use when he was 20.

After trying meth, Peterson was hooked and started using the drug almost daily for the next 10 years. He had three kids and moved to Denver, where he continued to use meth, but it wasn't until he got on the wrong side of the law that he realized he could no longer live the life he had been.

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One night in jail in the Denver area, Peterson began to pray.

"I got on my knees in my bunk and prayed to Jesus to help me," he said. "I knew there was a better life and He had created me for something else other than what I was doing."

Peterson said life immediately began to change.

"I slept great that night and I found out my kids were OK through the newspaper," he said. "… When they sent me to Craig I had no desire to smoke cigarettes, no desire to do any drugs.

"Jesus showed me that I was a slave to all of that stuff and all of (the) sudden my life started getting better."

After being in jail for a period, Peterson was sent to CAPS in Craig, where he was able to sober up.

But after 18 months of sobriety, Peterson relapsed and was sent back to prison.

Soon after prison, Peterson found a home in Craig with the First Baptist Church and the Celebrate Recovery program. He has now been sober for seven years — the best years of his life, he said.

"God just gave me a heart to serve people and a heart of love and I never had that before," he said. "All I wanted to do was serve myself. Things are just fantastic now."

For two years, Peterson has owned his own business, Peterson Construction. He has also become a ministry leader with Celebrate Recovery, where met his wife, Leslie.

His goal now is to live a selfless life of helping others overcome drug abuse and find salvation in the church.

"The more selfless I become, the more happier I become," he said. "When I start doing the things only I want to do for me, things don't go as good. I get up every morning and I pray and I read my Bible … and I am thankful for the life I have today."

Peterson also supports the efforts of local entities like Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse and local law enforcement in fighting meth use in the community.

Meth still a problem in area despite efforts

Craig Police Department Commander Bill Leonard is no stranger to seeing the damaging effects of meth abuse in the community.

"When it comes to meth, I had a person tell me once that when people rank what is important in their life, most of us would say, 'Family, friends, job,' whatever," he said. "… People that are addicted to meth would say one, two and three are meth. That came from an addict."

Despite the efforts of local law enforcement like the police department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, and the All Crimes Enforcement Team over the last several years to respond and curb meth use, Leonard contends the problem hasn't gone away.

"We continue to see it at the patrol level and the calls they handle and the types of crimes that are going on out there," he said. "I don't know that there has been any major spike or decline. Definitely there is still meth in the area and it is fairly easy to see that just in the cases we have."

Craig's meth use holding steady is not unusual compared to other parts of the state, Leonard said.

"Talking with other police departments, they haven't seen any increases or declines, it is just kind of a steady flow," he said. "You have got the demand and the people who are willing to take the risks to bring it in."

Leonard said meth and other drugs are the cause behind many of the calls the department receives.

"Once they get addicted to it, that's their prime and they do whatever they have got to do to get it," he said. "They go out and commit other crimes so they can get cash to get it. They completely blank out their families so there are a lot of family issues."

However, some measures have been able to help stymie the problem of meth labs starting in the community, Sgt. John Forgay said. One such example are rules regarding the purchase of products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are often used in making meth.

Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz agreed and added that economic factors have contributed to some diminished meth use including the rising cost of the drug due to its availability and getting it across the borders from "super labs" in Mexico.

Drug dealers have also become more creative in ways they are distributing it to residents, Jantz said. But that doesn't mean local law enforcement has backed off investigations and enforcement.

'A plague'

Shirley Simpson, COMA activities coordinator, contends the nature of meth is "pure destruction."

"It takes your life away from you — physically, mentally, your family, your friends, your children," she said. "It doesn't stop until it consumes you completely."

The goal of COMA is to educate the community about the affects and dangers of meth use to an individual and the community as a whole, Simpson said. The organization focuses on prevention by educating area youth, hosting events and presentations for young and old throughout the year, and hosting monthly meetings.

"You can't say enough, you truly can't," she said. "You can't put enough emphasis on the destruction."

In hopes of continuing their goal, COMA will host a special, two-hour meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the Moffat County Public Safety Center to focus on the organization's mission and encourage residents to become involved in the organization. The meeting is open to the public.

In addition to various on-going school projects, the group is also planning a "Not Even Once Week" for the end of October in partnership with the Colorado Meth Project.

COMA meets the last Thursday of every month at noon at the safety center. For more information, call 824-COMA.

Forgay contends meth is "a plague" considering users become dysfunctional.

"The risk is just too incredible, but not so incredible that people can't overcome it and use common sense to get away from it," he said.

Despite local efforts of several organizations in the community to overcome meth use, not much has changed, Simpson said.

"I think the players change, the users change, but I don't think the actual numbers have changed significantly as people using, dealing, selling, the whole thing," she said.

But, one thing that has changed in the community, Simpson said, is that many people have been able to overcome their addictions and make the necessary changes in their lives — something that wasn't common in the past.

"I don't think people were as aware of the places that were out there for them to go," she said. "At that time, it wasn't the forefront of the news. You didn't see that much about what was going on. It was just kind of hitting the mainstream awareness and now, I think a lot of it is there are places and rehabs and facilities for people that need help."

Helping 'lost souls'

Simpson's hope is that by educating the community on the dangers of meth use, the number of users will decline and with it the demand for the drug.

"There is only so much that we can do as a small group," she said.

Peterson contends continuing drug use will always be a problem if residents don't seek help for their addictions.

"Unfortunately, drugs have been around our world since day one," he said. "Whether it was meth, cocaine, pot, alcohol. Until you rid yourself of that, there is going to be a lot of people using it.

"There are going to be lost souls that can't handle what is happening to them so instead of praying and asking God for help, they take a drink, or smoke a joint, or take a hit."

Simpson contends the work of the various entities fighting meth use would be vindicated if it reached just one resident.

"If it reaches one person whose life is not destroyed and their family, just one person would be worth it, it truly would," she said. "Of course, we would love to see way more than that, but one person would be worth the work that we do."

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